Cuba Redo

Cuba part 3- 2hours

I added this third, “redo” of Cuba- mainly because I could not stand to hear the offensive words of President Trump. This relatively poor country of Cuba was interesting and full of friendly people. And it has to be seen!

Rhode Scholars Group did just that for us, they’re one of the few groups with permission to give tours of the country.

On the eve of the Revolution Cuba was a semideveloped country with more millionaires than anywhere else South of Texas and an urban workforce that had achieved, “the eight-hour work day, double pay for overtime, one months paid vacation, nine days sick leave and the right to strike. On the other hand a 1950’s World bank study found that 40% of urban dwellers and 60% of rural dwellers were undernourished and 40% of Cubans had never gone to school and only 60% held fulltime jobs. The Revolution improved the lives of millions while destroying the middle and upper class. Today the country is still in rough shape and many people rely on the, “Libreta” program which allots a monthly supply of food (actually more like 10 days worth, if even available.) If given the opportunity to integrate back into the world the country could be a developed and prosperous nation. They would of course have to allow for a successful working and business class to emerge again though.

This large and beautiful hotel was the first place we arrived and the last place we stayed. Allowing us to meet and share insight with other travelers.

The room was shared for the three days and it was lovely and allowed us to see the coming and going of the hotel.

The backside was magnificent. You could see the indoor and outdoor patios, the small restaurant, and the pathway headed all the way down to the sea side. 

We stayed at a hotel overlooking the plaza (top/ left) of the city hall building in Cienfuegos.” I inquired about a place to eat and drink and they pointed me to the top floor. When we got up there we were greeted by live music, commotion, and conversation. It felt like a true experience of the culture and social life of the country. It was wonderful!

Their cemetery was beautiful, as you can see in the middle picture.

Part of our tour took us to the countryside to see both the beautiful tropic nature and the lifestyle of the farmers. Of course there were many splendid giant trees that twisted and curled like vines and flowing waterfalls.

Speaking of the farm workers, in one of the art exhibitions we toured there were magnificent wood carvings representing the common people of the countryside. They are very accurate in portraying the appearance and hard work ethic of the people there.

By one of the schools we toured we met some young men making these beautiful hand-crafted cards. They were $8 and, to the protest of other group members, I slipped him an extra $20. The average daily wage is $6 for the entire day!

I also got these postcards of a city drawing done by an art student.

Walking the streets you could see a mix of renovated and restored buildings in the more commercial areas, but as you got father into the back streets the buildings and infrastructure become increasingly dated.

The other prominent and unforgettable feature of the island are the classic cars. After the US put an embargo on Cuba no new American products, including cars and car parts, could be brought into the country. Paving the way for the iconic and never changing classic 1950’s style cars that the island is so well know for. Having to fabricate and maintain their own parts has lead to a very close-knit and knowledgeable car community. 

Cuba was a splendid place to travel. And one day if allowed to go on ones own will and explore the different corners of the nation there are probably some true gems to be found. Many of the beaches and areas were off limits to foreigners. It was also frowned upon to take pictures of people or give them money. I am unsure of why this is so, perhaps the government doesn’t want the extent of poverty to be known or for it’s people to grow too cozy with generous Americans. Either way I managed to do all three and make it out alive!


About carolinebotwin

Caroline Botwin and her husband Mike are retired educators who have always had a yen for travelling: he with a PH.D and teaching Architectural Engineering plus California wine education, and she having taught high school English, speech and drama. Both wanted to learn first hand about other cultures. While Mike predominately studied buildings and structures and met with winemakers, Caroline hunted for ancient sites and peoples. And kept journals of all their travels.
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